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DoD Pushes Dropping 'Coffin Nails' During Smokeout

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2000 – DoD's top leaders want people to snuff out their cigarettes for one day Nov. 16 during the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout.

"There are a number of reasons for us to encourage this, but the primary reason is we're concerned about the health of our people and smoking is devastating to an individual's health," said Dr. John Mazzuchi, deputy for clinical and program policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Smoking also costs the department tremendous amounts of money, both in terms of lost work time due to illness and because of the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses. It impacts readiness, and it impacts the fitness of service members, Mazzuchi said.

"The fact of the matter is people who are smoking cigarettes are much more likely to go to sick call and miss work than people who don't smoke," he said. "And we're not just a company that goes to work, we're a company that goes to war and has a sacred mission. I think it's very important for our people to be at their best so they can do the demanding job their country is counting on them for."

He also said that in a December 1996 report the Government Accounting Office estimated DoD spends nearly $600 million a year in treating smoking-related illnesses, both in short-term problems like more frequent respiratory ailments and more asthma and in long-term problems like cancer, heart disease and strokes.

Events like the Great American Smokeout serve a twofold benefit. "First, it raises people's consciousness on the devastating impacts of smoking," Mazzuchi said. "Second, it proves to people they can make it through the day without a cigarette."

He said there's a tremendous psychological impact from an event like the Smokeout because, "if you can make it through one day, you can make it through two, then three and so on."

DoD is also working to make nicotine-replacement therapies, such as chewing gum and patches, a covered TRICARE benefit for all beneficiaries. "It's a benefit for active duty, and we're working very hard to make it a covered benefit for everyone," Mazzuchi said. "Cigarette smoking is a terrible addiction. These are known as very effective ways to help people quit smoking."

But he also urged people not to simply wait for these products to become a covered benefit before trying to quit smoking. "It costs less money to buy the patches than it does to buy cigarettes," he said. "It's kind of a lame excuse to say, 'I'm not going to do anything until it's free.' You're already spending money on cigarettes, why not spend it on the patches?"

For more information on DoD's participation in the Great American Smokeout, visit http://www.tricare.osd.mil/media/the_doctor15.cfm.

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